“He was the protagonist of a story that today other generations will have to take it upon themselves to take somewhere sooner or later”
(by Marco Follini) – “Giorgio Napolitano was the first communist leader to fly to the United States, the first to be chosen as head of state, and also the first president to be, albeit rebelliously, re-elected a second time.
It was his qualities that earned him the presidency. Before, he had been President of the Chamber and Minister of the Interior and both times he had earned wider recognition than that which came from him alone. But by a curious paradox it was above all his defeats that favored his success. His characteristic as an anomalous communist, defeated several times in party disputes, less assertive and dogmatic than many of his other comrades, in fact earned him a wider consensus outside those walls. Confirming once again that the Quirinale can be reached more easily by boasting a few setbacks rather than by stringing together a series of cumbersome successes.
In short, Napolitano had a minority fate. He was a minority in his capacity as leader and militant of the PCI, a force that the geopolitical balance of the time (and the votes of the electors, above all) had confined to an opposition role – albeit an opposition held in great esteem. He was a minority within his own party, to which he vainly suggested dialogue with the socialists when the majority of the nomenklatura was rather betting on being able to defeat Craxi in a heated battle. And he ended up being a minority even in the troubled context of recent years, as the country slipped further and further into the spiral of populism and he dedicated himself with ever less success to trying to shake up and support the parties by pushing them towards those reforms that would never reach maturity. .
Curious fate, this. And that is to find themselves in difficulty, for opposite reasons, both among the people and in the palace. Difficulties that he faced with constitutional scruple, without ever failing to fulfill his obligations and the rules of the system. But also, one senses, with a certain bitterness that his reserve prevented him from expressing too vehemently.
I have often wondered how those two lives coexisted in his soul. That of the political leader, dedicated to animating the controversy. And that of the institutional figure, called to settle other people’s disputes. It can be said that he kept them very distinct, as was her duty. But it is also probable that that duty left a note of slight, perplexed bitterness inside him.
The fact is that the head of state is always a precarious figure. In fact, he can never remain too alone, nor keep himself too disdainfully away from the crowd without running the risk of preaching in the desert. But he can also never get confused with everyday political life, nor remain entangled in the network of governments and parties, nor allow himself to be assimilated into an everyday life which would then become the same trap as him.
Napolitano faced these challenges and ran these risks while keeping to the edge of this tiring balance. In 2011 he led the policy towards Monti and his emergency government. And in 2013 he attempted to guide Parliament towards the results of a reform long evoked and left pending for even longer. In both cases he found himself leveraging the party that he felt was least distant, the Democratic Party. The success of the first undertaking forced him, against his will, into the second seven-year sentence. But perhaps it then made it more difficult for him to complete the second undertaking. Which finally led him to shorten his second, painful seven-year term on his own initiative.
Now that the curtain falls on his life there will be an opportunity to return to his figure and the years of which he was the protagonist. With one caveat, however. That in the history of a great democracy like ours – large and very complicated – there is never a deus ex machina that governs the political processes alone. In fact, everyone is always a child of their time more than they are the author. It also applies to Giorgio Napolitano, who was the protagonist of a story that today other generations will sooner or later have to take it upon themselves to take somewhere.”